NEW YORK (AP)—There are tough angles and there are very tough angles, and then there’s the angle from which Latrell Sprewell launched the game-clinching shot Friday night.
Sprewell scored 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, including a clinching corner jumper from behind the backboard with 15 seconds remaining as the New York Knicks defeated the Detroit Pistons 97-93 Friday night.
“I just got a lucky bounce,” Sprewell said. “I was way behind the backboard, but luckily my right hand was on the inside because I was definitely behind the glass.”
Combined with Milwaukee’s loss to New Orleans, the Knicks moved within two games of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
With 13 games remaining in the regular season, the Knicks are confident they still have a legitimate chance to qualify for the playoffs.
If they get there, there’s no telling what they might do if Sprewell or Allan Houston go on one of the fourth-quarter shooting sprees that have highlighted several of the Knicks’ recent victories.
As nifty as Sprewell’s final shot was, his finest moments came earlier in the quarter when he went on one of his signature hot streaks.
His 3-pointer with 7:34 left broke open a close game and gave the Knicks a seven-point lead. Sprewell then hit a 3-pointer from in front of the Detroit bench—rubbing the bald head of Detroit’s Michael Curry before returning downcourt.
“He was in my ear, man,” Sprewell said. “I almost couldn’t get the shot off because he was standing there screaming behind me.”
After he scored on a leaner from the lane, Sprewell came up with a steal and quickly launched a pull-up 3-pointer for a 93-84 lead.
The Pistons came back, though, and pulled within 95-93 with a 9-2 run. Detroit missed two shots with a chance to tie or go ahead, setting up Sprewell’s corner jumper that clinched it.
With Corliss Williamson defending him tightly, Sprewell dribbled to his left toward the baseline and shot an off-balance 12-footer from behind the backboard.
“I forced him left, which is where we wanted him to go,” Williamson said. “I turned around to see where the shot was going—I didn’t think he was going to make it—but it spun around and went back in. Big shot.”
Houston added 19 points—only two in the fourth quarter—and Othella Harrington had 14.
The Pistons controlled the first half—or at least all but the final few seconds. A defensive lapse allowed Houston to get upcourt for a 3-pointer just before the buzzer that cut Detroit’s lead to 54-50 at the break.
New York came out energized to start the third quarter, forcing turnovers on Detroit’s first five possessions and scoring eight straight points for a 58-50 lead.
The Pistons came back and tied it twice after that, but a pair of free throws by Sprewell with 6:29 left in the third gave New York the lead for good.
“We hung around and gave ourselves a chance, but it’s a tough way to try to make a living on the road getting behind 10 and trying to claw your way backinto it,” Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said.
Wallace was seeking to become the first player since Dennis Rodman in 1995 to grab at least 20-plus rebounds in six consecutive games. … The Knicks haven’t lost at home to an opponent from the East since Jan. 14—a span that covers eight opponents from their conference. … The Pistons played their NBA-leading 36th road game. The Eastern Conference leaders will play nine oftheir last 14 at home.